On this episode, we talked to Leslie Short, and how she’s bringing the best of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to big corporations that struggle with or strive to improve their own programs. And she’s doing it with a mind for serious, long-term, evolving relationships between employers and their most valuable asset – their people.
And we did it live! Check out our guest’s beautiful faces below:
About Leslie Short
Leslie Short is owner of The Cavu Group, author of Expand Beyond Your Current Culture, and a DEI strategist with four decades of experience. She created The Cavu Group in an effort to facilitate and create new solutions to old and new issues within Diversity & Inclusion. Leslie is uniquely skilled at seeking growth through open conversations, conflict coaching, trainings, and workshops,
and she firmly believes that issues don’t resolve simply by putting programs in place but by continually evolving and creating a channel to listen to and understand the people who are our greatest assets.
Leslie has an accomplished background in many areas of business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and the arts. She began her career as a classical ballet dancer, which led to her living in Europe for over a decade. Leslie then created an entertainment business, which was rated the best business in Japan in 1994. She went on to become the President of Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations at FUBU and Corporate Operating Strategist at companies such as The Shark Group and blueprint + co. She also launched K.I.M. Media
LLC (Keep it Moving) and founded Ascend Bereavement Management. In addition to her business ventures, Leslie is a chaplain, activist, certified mental health aide, certified mediator, conflict coach, and a dignitary and keynote speaker at the United Nations and European Union events around the world.
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About Voices of CX Podcast
The Voices of CX Podcast is a podcast that covers all things business strategies, customer decision insight, empathetic leadership practices, and tips for sustainable profitability. With a little bit of geeking out on behavioral science, A.I. and other innovation sprinkled in here and there. The guests span multiple industries, but all of them have years of experience to bring to the table.
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Mary Drumond: Welcome back to the viewers and listeners of Voices of Customer Experience podcast.
We’re in season eight and today I am joined by Leslie Short. Leslie is a brilliant woman who I had the pleasure of speaking to the other day in our pre-call for this recording. And I’m going to let her introduce herself because I mean, there’s no one better to do the job. Leslie, take it away.
Leslie Short: Thank you, Mary excited to be here. So I’m Leslie Short, the owner of the Cavu Group, and I work with companies, organizations, and brands to expand beyond their current culture. And I do that through the diversity and inclusion lens. And I’m also the author of a book, Expand Beyond Your Current Culture.
Clearly that’s the theme.
Mary Drumond: Well, that’s great. And one the reasons that I was excited to have you on here today was because, although we’ve discussed culture at length on this podcast, we’ve never really applied the lens of diversity and inclusion to it. Diversity, equity, and inclusion, to be more clear. So having you on here to address this and understand on a deeper level, how strongly this influences company culture as a whole, and consequently affects the customers and the way that they perceive and interact and identify with the brand.
So let’s start off talking about a little bit of how you help companies. When you walk in the door, someone invites you in to share your message and your work. What’s that like, and how has that increased recently?
Leslie Short: Well, clearly it’s increased. I’m gonna go backwards and then come forward, clearly in the past 18 months, or really 16 months, cause we went into the pandemic. Realistically, companies and brands were dismantling their DEI efforts because that was money. That was extra. No one was thinking about that. It was all about pandemic.
And then the murder of George Floyd happened. And it was a race in time to not only put these practices back in place, but to start hiring like there’s no tomorrow. So with that said, my phone started ringing and I kept saying, why is this important to you? And don’t give me your PR spin.
And once we got past that, if they could get past that, when I walk in a door or turn on a Zoom, cause we know that’s where we’re going now, the first questions I ask, the first question is I asked, what is your definition of diversity, equity and inclusion? They are three different words with three different meanings.
And until we break that down, sorry, as an understanding as a company we’re already lost.
Mary Drumond: Yeah. Well, to ask you, is there a right answer that? Is there an answer that you’re looking for specifically when you ask that question?
Leslie Short: I want people to be honest. Yes. And so what happens is I’ll get a lot of head knods, but I’m going, if you think diversity means black and white, especially after George Floyd’s murder, then you’re wrong. Diversity is gender, race, disability, sight, seen and unseen, lGBTQ+, and veterans. Now I have a thing with veterans, whether they should be underneath that, but I’m not going to fight society today. So I’m going to keep that there. So we have to start with that.
Then what does equity mean for your company? What does that look like? And no one thinks of equity that way. Most people think of equity as money. So we have to break that down and then inclusion. Inclusion is not what you think it is. It’s how someone else perceives it, feels it and can move through it.
So I have to really start with vocabulary, words have meaning, which is a whole nother session that I do later on. But if we don’t build understanding and then how affects, how it seeps in, how it builds your company culture, if that’s not important to them, which will eventually be your bottom line, then they’re not the company that I want to work with.
Mary Drumond: And how do you feel about the whole idea of “better, late than never”? Because it’s so tragic that we had to go through something so serious in order for people to start paying attention. And as tragic as it is, it has increased efforts. It has increased movements. And even though some may be a PR stunt, like you said, or just companies knowing that if they don’t make these changes, then the internet is going to come after them. But is there good to be found? Is there something that we can use to actually build something that’s sustainable long-term and change the workplace as we know it?
Leslie Short: I always believe there’s good in everything, but let’s be honest: this is not new. This is the problem that everyone thinks it’s new. We can go back to affirmative action. We can go back into, you know, and go through the history of multicultural marketing and mosaic marketing, all the things that it was called before.
What happened now is that there was a rallying cry from employees. See, before it was the employer. Then it became a legal action with the employer and legal, right? So they had to do it and they had to do it by numbers. Now it was a rallying cry for the people that show up every day, not only black and brown people, but a large majority of their employees that, I don’t want to say everyone because everyone’s not on this yellow brick road for diversity, equity and inclusion. And that’s what we need to understand.
So we had to build, what does that look like today? Not what it was 20 years ago, not what it was 18 months ago, but there’s a clitch with that. And I don’t want to answer probably a question you have too soon, but I’m going to go into, if you don’t mind! That clitch is everyone went running out, hire black people, hire black people, hire brown people.
I need you to stop doing that. I need you to pause. Power, privilege and pause because you need to pause to understand what is the importance of having this diversity, not only of color, of gender, of disabilities. And are you prepared as leadership to give equity to anyone that walks through your door and to build inclusion from within? Not belonging, because a book belongs in a bookstore.
And only you as a human being can decide where you belong. That’s not a job’s responsibility. Their responsibility is to build a culture of equity and inclusion.
Mary Drumond: That’s actually a really good point. That inclusion is something that comes from within and we each have to work on ourselves, right? Do you believe though, that in all of these circumstances that this time, perhaps we will see long-lasting change?
Leslie Short: For those that are serious, that made a commitment past a black box in Juneteenth, that made a commitment past signing on to whatever a bunch of them signed on to, because a lot of them have already said they couldn’t do what they signed on to. That happened last week. A lot of people are fatigued.
I heard allyship is very fatigued at the moment. Nice luxury to have. For those, and I’m working with some amazing clients, I have to say, it has not been easy. Has not been easy for them. It hasn’t always been easy for me, but they are committed to, I don’t like to use the word change, I like to say shift because this is going to shift and move us.
A change, you think happens – boop! A shift, little, it’s a mind shift, thought shift, a feeling shift, then it has to be a process policy and procedure shift. And that has to go from the mailroom to the boardroom. So it takes time to build all of that in, but yes, there will be, and I see shifts
Mary Drumond: Now I think that one of the most important things for us to do as leaders in organizations is to be able to very clearly lay out the value, because lots of times what happens is that people in positions of leadership don’t have the power that people on the outside, think they do. That power sometimes lies with the board.
It lies with shareholders and they will lose their jobs if they don’t provide some proof of profit. But the truth is it is extremely profitable to have equity and inclusion. And definitely, it’s positive, it’s profitable to have diversity internally. So is this part of the work that you do? Showing organizations, how much that they miss out on when it comes to revenue if they skip this step?
Leslie Short: You know what? I don’t get a lot of those clients because they know not to come to me because they’re coming, they’re hiring, cause I’m going to be honest, like you’re doing this performative and I don’t have the bandwidth of my spirit. This comes from my spirit during this work, it comes from my mind. It comes from my knowledge. I’m not here to placate the fact that you’re trying to reach a number.
But I am here to, if you allow me to work with you, because it’s work on both sides, to build this into the foundation for what you’re building, again, from the mailroom to the boardroom, I work with boards.
I’ve been doing sessions with boards, and they get me involved that way, that they understand and can start to the difference the person that was sending emails to HR. Like, we shouldn’t be doing this, we shouldn’t be doing this! And they made some things mandatory, he came mad. He came in hot, my new best friend today because he said, even he said, as an employee, you’re not trying to trying to change us.
You’re trying to show us that there’s ways that we can be better and stronger together. And that’s understanding each other, which allowed them to work better. Then what happened? They start doing more together, which meant more profit. They start to see that the attitude of employees start to change and that already is a winning bottom line.
Mary Drumond: Yeah. How often do you encounter people saying we have to change because it is our responsibility. It’s more as the right thing to do from a moral and ethical standpoint, this, that there is an unjustice being done and we have the power to correct it, so we will, versus, the market now understands our stakeholders, understand the importance of this and they’re demanding action.
Do you see that contrast?
Leslie Short: I definitely do. And I like to work with both of those. Those are the companies I want to work with because at the end of the day, there’s the bottom line of, I understand people are important and I need to figure out how to do that, the best way I can. And everyone’s at different stages. So one stage is not any less than the other.
Anyway, people say to me, who’s your perfect client? Anyone that’s willing to do the work that really wants to have this conversation at once to peel back the onion that comes in and says, okay, what’s the low-hanging fruit we can start with and how do we keep building this? And so it’s important for both sides to come.
However they get to it, let’s get here. That’s what’s important.
Mary Drumond: So what’s some of the foundation with some of the building blocks, or like you said, the low-hanging fruit that when you enter an organization, you’re like, you need to start right here? It’s not, from what I’m hearing from you, it’s not with recruiting. It’s with building a culture in.
Leslie Short: Right.
Mary Drumond: Lay this out for me here.
Leslie Short: So when they say, oh, we want to recruit and I go, why? Well, because – Nope. I don’t say no, I don’t. “Nope.” And you know, and once they get to see me, they know my face is on Zoom now. And they’re like, what, what, what, what, what do we do?
And I said, you haven’t taken care of the people that’s in-house. How are you bringing new people in when you have people leaving or unhappy within? Let’s take a moment to step back.
I want to see your handbook, I want to see your vision statement, I want to see your mission statement, I want to know who people report to. I want to know who’s the other person that people can report to. And I mean, when something is right and something is wrong, and I started breaking that down, I want to see emails and notices of how you speak to your staff and see, they look at me like what’s that got to do with DEI.
DEI is not an add-on, and that’s the thing. Most people thought it was an add-on. It’s part of your culture. So I need to see how you run this, to understand where we can start. And so why maybe working on doing a session with them, on your personal bias. Like I’m not a fan for hitting that, you know, that video – Jane don’t do that to Mary. Mary stop that. But John, John, come on now.
We need before you even recognize what’s wrong, you have to understand what you’re bringing to the table. What’s in your bag, whether you’re a CEO or not. So I break that down to them. What is their added value they’re giving to an employee outside of a check? And what’s the added values you’re looking for from employees outside of getting that check. And when we start breaking those things down and then looking through the handbook. That’s great, you know, everyone has a handbook.
No, let me take that back. Everyone doesn’t have a handbook.
Mary Drumond: You’re saying that sort of like, wow, we just made our handbook like three months ago.
Leslie Short: So therefore, I don’t know, what’s your code of conduct? You know, I get the big eye-stare. There’s things that we can break down and even in your handbook, I go, that’s great, but let’s be honest. You get hired, you get the handbook. You’re excited you have a gig. You sign off on everything. You put that thing in a folder because most of them are electronic now. You’ll put it in a drawer and you don’t look at that again.
So how do we actually live what we’re saying to people is part of our values. We have to bring those values to life and that’s how I start.
Mary Drumond: Is that just education? Or is there something extra that comes along with that? Do you think that the rules are important as a form of education? Or do you think that just speaking to people and training and opening their eyes to perhaps some biases that they’ve been conditioned to over the course of their lives?
Does it go a little bit further than just the talking?
Leslie Short: Has to go further. It’s education, and you have to educate yourself. It’s not up to your black and brown employees used to educate you. And so I say that on both sides, leaders educate yourself and employees, educate yourself, stop saying the word “transparency”. You don’t have the books. You’re not getting transparency.
You’re asking for visibility. And so it’s even breaking down these terminologies. Trainings, like you train a dog, you train animals. These are sessions. You have to allow people to actually speak. To actually say to someone, Hey, I don’t feel that way. And so one clutch their pearls and go, well, what do you mean?
I remember someone going, I never, ever thought someone’s path in this company was different from mine. And so that light bulb went off that, oh, everyone doesn’t show up the same way every day, because that’s a privilege to think that everyone gets to show up the way.
Mary Drumond: Yeah,
Leslie Short: And so it’s education and you have to keep and repetitive. It’s like being a gym is you don’t go do a cartwheel and backflip be Simone Biles, like “woo”. You may luck out one day, right? And get that split in the air and be like, ah.
Mary Drumond: You may also break your neck.
Leslie Short: But if it’s something you’re committed to you get up and you come back again. And that is what this work is. You may get bruised along the way. But you get up and say, it’s important enough for me to get that bruise, to make sure that when someone walks in here and we work together, that there is a mission and a purpose, and that people can see themselves here, that they have a valid voice within this organization.
And from that, that valid voice will go out to your consumers. Because the moment, the voice is not valued, that Yelp review, a Twitter feed and all that stuff. Everyone’s scared of what happens that, you know, people know how to write and there are op-eds that are looking for these stories.
Mary Drumond: Yeah. Yeah, you’re absolutely right now, the current that we’re living in, in September, 2021, everywhere I go, whether it’s to the laundromat or the gas station or restaurants, are signs saying “we are ready to hire now, please, somebody come work for us”. And it seems like there is a giant shortage of workers. Now, a lot of people, and we know that a lot of people are really quick to point the finger blame social initiatives and benefits for people not showing up to, but I think anyone with more than one brain cell knows that the problem lies a little bit deeper. What are your, what’s your point of view on that, on this crisis?
Leslie Short: Alright. The crisis is not a crisis because, I’m in the midst of working with a company to hire at this moment. And so I’ve just, I’m seeing a lot, seeing a lot of resumes. I, every time I open up that email it’s flooded. So people are looking to work. People are looking to work where they want to work.
That’s the difference. Years ago, the job, you kept your head down, you kept your mouth shut and you gave, you took whatever job. Now people are going, what is your commitment to social justice? And I always say, ask that if it’s a social justice company, don’t ask that to a corporation. Ask what is your commitment for a community, which is part of social justice, but you have to say the words differently.
Ask what are your commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion, outside having a group? And so employees, those that are looking for work are looking to work in places that don’t have toxic environments. I had someone say I just came out of something. I’m not walking back into that.
Mary Drumond: Correct.
Leslie Short: You’re not paging me at nine o’clock at night and 10 o’clock at night.
I’m not a doctor. I can’t help you. I’m not a minister. I can’t bless you. I can’t, you know, I’m not around. But like, there are people that are just like, I can’t, I’m not, why are you calling? There are boundaries for which we have no boundaries, working in these squares. What people are saying is “I want out of the people I work with”. And that’s whether they’re flipping a burger or creating the next rocket ship to go up. And if you aren’t incentivizing- and I don’t mean money, always- your employees, that you are committed to their growth and to opportunities inside the company and what the work they do outside of the company for communities.
So we’re just like, well then you’re not the right fit for me.
Mary Drumond: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because pre COVID I wrote an article about how Millennials, we’re not going to suck it up and work for no reason. And here’s the thing I expected, the kind of the pushback to be “oh, eventually they’ll move to another organization”. I did not predict an Exodus and simply a refusal to work or be productive in a society that’s unfair and yes, this is millennials, but it’s also gen Z. It’s also the youth that’s entering the market now and saying, oh, hell no, I, I’m not going to stand for this. These aren’t my values.
And so here’s the thing. I have a lot of conversations with senior leaders and the perspective is still mostly – mostly – it’s a job. It’s a job. We’re not supposed to like our jobs. And we are, we are supposed to like our jobs.
We’re allowed to have pleasure in waking up in the morning and coming into work. We’re allowed to feel like we belong in an organization. And not that quote-unquote “we’re family”, that a lot of companies are selling. But the feeling that yeah, the organization that you work for truly cares about its people, about its customers, about its morals, about its ethics. And again, I’m not talking about whether or not the employee passes a drug test every three months. I’m talking about true morals, valuing human lives, respecting human lives and fighting for it as a corporation.
Leslie Short: And it’s in different ways. And so I always say, you have to know where you are. So one company may do one way and be very loud about it. And someone else may be doing a whole lot and you don’t know about it unless you’re in or you see certain things. So you have to do your research as well to see where you fit.
There are some that will do nothing. So you know: don’t apply there. ‘Cause you see who they are because they’re telling you who they are. Now, it’s important for some people to really say and listen, what is it that you’re looking for? Doesn’t mean we can do it all, but what is it? And there’s others that have said we can do better, even though they were already doing things, we can do better. And we’re going to make the path and make sure that black and brown folks have an opportunity to know when jobs are available within the company, that we’re not going to keep moving the goalpost. You don’t have that degree. So go get that. They come back with a degree. Oh no, this is what – we’re going to stop moving goalposts.
It’s going to have to, there will be equity in where we are. Just because Bob knows John’s father and grandfather. Well, you know, some may John may still get it, but there’s going to, they have to be prepared for this. But we’re also going to hold them at task because of that. And so until companies realize, and most of you have to realize this didn’t happen until 16 months ago when employees kind of jammed, rammed the door open and said, what are you doing?
We will not work here if you do not do better. And this was white, black, yellow, green purple. And allow me to tell you something else now that I’m doing interviews with executives, some of the executives, they will tell you quick as well. I have had careers. This is not a job. So what I do next must have meaning in this world.
Out of six people, executives that I last night interviewed with a CEO of a company, each of them said that in front of him, I want this position because it is making a difference in lives that always don’t look like mine, but I am connected to. Things have changed.
Mary Drumond: Yeah, that’s, that’s beautiful, actually. So when a client comes to you and says, Hey, Leslie, I need to hire 10 black people to work at my company because I have too many white people and it doesn’t look good. So I want to feel these 10 spots with people of color. How do you feel about that? Because that’s-
Leslie Short: No. Nope. I’m gonna go back to that word.
Mary Drumond: Okay, great. I was, it was definitely the answer I was looking for. So why?
Leslie Short: Because it’s a setup. It’s a setup for the employees. Is it set up for their employer. Cause they go, We have these spots filled. There’s no entry, there’s no culture that has been set or given to the employees that’s already there, why this is important. They’re just coming in. And then it is a collision of understanding, because maybe for leadership, they’re like, well, we hit our quota, just do your job they’re coming and going, we’re here to help make a shift.
Well, if somebody is not ready to make a shift and hitting a quota, those are two very, very different things. And I have seen it happen, especially when everyone started hiring of DEI, Head of DEI, Head of culture. And what are we, 16 months on? Most of those positions have left. Most of those colleagues I know have left those positions because the company was not prepared to make a shift.
So if you’re just checking the box, I always say, you’ve checked the box, now what? What I also say, I will not take a company, even if they have done the work and it’s asked me to help hire. And usually I get hired not only to find black and brown people, but to really find the best person for that position because they know that’s the way I’m going to look it. And I’m going to emphasize black and brown folks because I’m going to make sure that where black and brown folks are, that they know this job is even available. See, that’s the difference. It’s not about filling with black and brown folks. Are you putting it in a place where they can see it? And are you doing the work inside?
So in order for me to take that, because I’m not an HR recruiter, it’s part of what I do for my business. But my agreement says I have to work with leadership and staff in advance of hiring anyone to make sure you are prepared to bring in new cultures into your organization. And if they don’t agree to that, then that’s – hire a recruiter.
Mary Drumond: Yeah, a sticky question for you. Where does the responsibility of corporations end and where does government or other social responsibilities begin when it comes to preparing more people of color for the roles in the market? Because that’s something that we need to consider.
If we take a cold look at the numbers in education, there’s still a massive gap in how much is invested in the education and in the training and the preparedness of many, many different ethnics ethnic groups to enter the market and it feels to me like this is a giant challenge that needs to be overcome because if an organization is hiring for a quota, like you said, and they’re setting people up by hiring people who are not prepared to do that job, therefore they feel. And then they say, ah, see, we tried, we gave it our best shot, didn’t work, but at the same time, nothing is being done to provide more equality in the education system.
I heard a podcast a little while ago that talks about the Latino and black population in the US and how it’s going to overtake Caucasians in the next 30 years. And if we consider the amount that’s being invested in the education of black and brown people, our future does not look very bright because that will catch up with us.
And we will have a population that’s not prepared for the roles that society requires in order to function. So it was a really long question.
Leslie Short: Nope. I took a few notes because I want to hit some things. One, it’s not a sticky question.
So I want to go back to two things you said and then answer. It’s not that employees are not prepared. Employers are not prepared as well. Right. So I want to make sure that that’s clear.
Because black and brown folks can walk into many roles and still get roadblocks and have much more education than the person sitting next to them. But don’t get the opportunities to show that or invited to the right meetings or did the right outing. So I want it to be very, very clear. Then we are not overtaking because see, when you say overtake white folks get very scared and it’s like, we’re running over and we’re taking things from everyone.
We not taking nothing from anybody. We are growing in popularity, which means the opportunities should be the same going across. Doesn’t mean anyone’s taking, I didn’t ask you for your pie. I asked you for a slice of your pie. I always want to make that clear because people start getting very nervous that we’re coming through.
We’ve been here. With that said, when it comes to education, I want to go back further. I want to go back to the first day that little black and brown child walks into school. And that teacher decides they’re going to call them a different name because they don’t want to pronounce their name. I want to go back from that little black and brown child goes up a grade and maybe has a bad day and gets labeled as troubled or aggressive that day that now affects that child going through elementary school, junior high and high school.
I want to talk about the day with that black and brown child goes into the guidance counselor and says, Oh, my God, I love science and they go, you’re not going to ever make it as a scientist. I’m going to talk about the black and brown little girl, me, that was trained as a classical ballet dancer at seven, in the sixth grade that white teacher said to me and called my parents and said, stop filling her head with fantasies, there’s no such thing as a black ballerina.
Luckily I had the type of parents surrounding and my own personality that never listened to her and danced with Kings and Queens all over this world. Put that aside, go again. So the barriers of what we’re being, these children have being told every step of the way, guidance counselors saying you can’t do that. You’re not good enough for that. You don’t have the right suit for that.
By the time someone gets to college, they’re exhausted and, they just walked in the door. So therefore the tutors, the opportunities to even, when someone else may get five tutors, to get that other test they may or may not be able to afford those five tutors. That’s already a disadvantage.
So before you even get to the workplace, you have fought climbed, dug holes, dug tunnels, gone over mountains, gone through. And let me be very clear because I don’t like this to be confused. Every black and brown person does not come from the hood, or from a poor neighborhood. There are many, and we all have privileged.
There are privileges that go with privilege. So, but the fact of the color or your skin will sometimes determine how you are treated when you walk in that door. Before you ever say anything or look at a resume. Or as someone said, someone went to hand their resume and they said, oh, you could not have done all of this.
And this person had served in the army, had been, had gone up the ranks, had done college while he was there and three degrees out of the army. And they said, there’s no way you did this. Whose resume is this? So it is not about black and brown folks not being prepared. Now there are portions of it that’s not prepared, we can get in that. is about the automatic sometimes bias or you call it unconscious call it. It is the fact that a lot of people say they want black or brown folks until someone walks in the door,
They’re like, oh, just take Johnny, take Johnny, take Johnny. We know Johnny, we know what we’re getting – or they think they know what they’re getting.
So not being prepared is understanding how you play game of corporate America. Let’s all be honest. We can say there’s no game and there is no written rule books, right? But there is a, you know, finesse your way through and understand how you do extra show up at certain places, how you educate yourself.
That is something that is not taught. Why? Because you don’t have lineages of people to see in those positions to help you figure it out.
Mary Drumond: Yeah,
Leslie Short: So that was a very long answer. Sorry, but that was a very-
Mary Drumond: It was a very long question.
Leslie Short: Took you down the road with me on that one.
Mary Drumond: No, but you’re absolutely right. And I mean, it doesn’t change my concern for the investment in education, because I still think that education is the most important thing, but it really does paint a really clear picture that a lot of times, either we don’t see, because we just simply don’t want to see it because it’s too uncomfortable or because we’ve always been so comfortable that we’ve actually been shielded from finding that out.
You know, I grew up in South America and we love to say that in South America, there’s no racism and that’s the deepest lie. Because it may not be in your face, but it’s so intensely rooted in the culture that it even penetrates the so-called higher levels of the social pyramid.
Leslie Short: But it’s, because I work with international companies and so it may not be called racism, but there is colorism.
Mary Drumond: Hmm.
Leslie Short: We all know that certain people of darker skin will not get certain positions or have a harder time getting those positions. Or I have a hard time being compared against when they’re in that organization, because I’ve had to have those conversations with international companies in Brazil and in Spain.
And so it’s just done differently. You know, having lived in Europe for 10 and a half years in Asia for three and a half, I remember someone saying, oh, well same thing. There’s no racism. We lost that. I said, you just told me I wasn’t black. So, I’m confused-
Mary Drumond: Well, in Brazil though, they’ll add an extra layer to it and they’ll call it classicism. And they’ll say, oh no, I’m not, I’m not racist. I’m classicist. And of course they’ll overlook the fact that most of poorer population is of color.
Leslie Short: Right.
Mary Drumond: And in, in Brazil, there are so many different barriers.
I had this conversation with someone the other day. Okay, you’ll see black people on TV. You’ll see tons of soccer players and you’ll see dancers and you’ll see actors. When you step into board rooms, how many black executives do you see? How many black doctors do you see? How many black engineers do you see? And this is not subtracting from the talent of the individuals who do prosper, but when it comes to technical roles that require education from very early on, an investment in education, it’s simply not there.
Leslie Short: And even when they’re there, because – and it is growing, not enough – when it’s there, you still have to prove that you read the same book as the person that’s sitting next to you, that you passed the same test to become a doctor as the person next to you, even though you may have passed on the first time, and the other person took the law, you know, the law thing, 10 times. There’s always that, you see it in the news, doctors, and nurses that are dealing with people with COVID. “Don’t touch me. I want a real doctor”. Until the time to intubate, then all of a sudden they’re the best thing since sliced bread.
So it’s this image of, “you fit my circle of what I think you should do. I don’t care about your education, don’t care about what you have. If you don’t fit my bubble that I’m comfortable with, then you are someone black or brown that I’m not comfortable with.”
Mary Drumond: Right. It’s that idea of I’m not racist as long as you know your place.
Leslie Short: Yes. They, them and those.
Leslie, You’re good. Oh, can I invite so-and-so? Oh, not them. Well, why not them? Oh, well, you know, you’re different. What’s that – you know, I push people. What does that different mean? That you’re comfortable with me because I can move through anything, cause that’s who I am? And I’m trying to introduce you to someone that’s brilliant, that can actually really help your project more than I can because they have that expertise? But that doesn’t work for your bubble for the gala that evening, or what your table picture will look like.
And so we have to get past that. Some people were saying that well, Leslie, why do you still show up? Oh, because I will show up because I will have these conversations because it’s my responsibility to show up to be there, I could care less about being the only one in the room.
I’ve been the only one in the country. That is my right because I have deserved, I have decided that’s where I belong.
Mary Drumond: Yeah.
Leslie Short: Until we also bring that into the culture of black and brown folks that don’t need to have an excuse to be in the room. If we are in the room, our presence, our mind, our body, our spirits, our education has the right to be there. And once we’re in the room, we need to be a presence within the room to have a valid voice within the room. And that doesn’t always, it’s not always given to you because you may not always get the opportunity. But I had no problem going, excuse me. Yeah. Add onto to that because what I have maybe added value.
Mary Drumond: Yeah.
Yeah We’re so out of time and I just looked at the clock. For our listeners and our viewers who are watching you right now and are inspired to make change happen in their organization, how do they reach you?
Leslie Short: they can always reach me through my website, The Cavu Group.com. it’s C A V U, and THE. Cavu is a different construction company. So always make sure The Cavu Group, they can just reach out directly to me at Leslie, at The Cavu Group. And if they want to read a bit more before they reach out to me, my book Expand Beyond Your Current Culture is available in bookstores and Amazon and small bookstores as well.
Mary Drumond: Oh, that’s great.
Leslie Short: So have a conversation.
Mary Drumond: Thank you so much for coming and sharing your work and sharing your vision. And I hope to have you again, next time, maybe in season nine to continue along this path of understanding more about how these issues deeply affect culture and in turn the customer as well. So thank you so much for coming.
Leslie Short: Thank you. This was an absolute pressure. It was great speaking with you, Mary.